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How to Start Your MissouriNonprofit Guide

How to Start a Nonprofit in Missouri

Welcome to our Missouri nonprofit resource guide! This free guide will help you understand how to start your nonprofit in Missouri and become 501(c)(3) tax exempt. You will find step-by-step instructions and get answers to common questions like "what does it cost?" and "how many board members do I need?".

If you're starting out with little or no funds, gaining professional assistance is rarely an option. In that case, you may want to commit to researching the process and filing government applications on your own. This route is not for the faint of heart but is certainly achievable if you work diligently. The following step-by-step guide should help you as you undertake this process.

1 Confirm a New Nonprofit is Necessary

As you begin, take a moment to consider if you should start a new non-profit organization. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there were over 31,000 nonprofit organizations in Missouri in 2013. Before deciding a new nonprofit is necessary...

  • Research if an organization already exists in your area that serves your cause. By working together you avoid diluting the effect of fundraising dollars and volunteer hours available in your geography.
  • Consider fiscal sponsorship, in which an umbrella 501(c) organization incubates your charitable nonprofit. Fiscal sponsors permit your cause to receive tax-deductible donations and often handle administrative paperwork.
2 Understand the Benefits of Incorporating

This guide focuses on starting a nonprofit corporation, the traditional nonprofit legal structure. This legal structure has a few key benefits. First and foremost, the nonprofit corporation limits the liability of the organization's officers and directors. Second, the nonprofit corporation is familiar to donors and grant makers. Lastly, nonprofit corporations meet a wide range of IRS eligibility requirements, in particular those relating to the 501(c)(3) application.

3 Check Name Availability

Check availability of your desired name. The legal name of the nonprofit corporation may not conflict with any other registered name.

Name Search:
Secretary of State database search
Name Reservation:
4 Recruit Incorporators and/or Initial Directors
  • Identify the incorporators. These individuals will execute the articles of incorporation and submit them to the state.
  • Recruit initial directors for your nonprofit board of directors. In Missouri, a minimum of three directors are required.
  • Nonprofits often begin working with us before they incorporate and select a board. We help you understand state and IRS requirements as you select your board members.
5 Appoint a Registered Agent

Identify the nonprofit’s Missouri registered agent. A registered agent is a legal appointee who is responsible for receiving legal notices for your nonprofit. Your registered agent must be physically located in Missouri and maintain an office that is open during regular business hours.

We provide a convenient service to act as your Missouri registered agent. As part of that service, our local office in Harrisonville, MO receives your legal documents and sends you notifications. You view your documents in your secure online account. Registered agent is included in our nonprofit formation service or you can sign up for this service separately.

Welcome to Our Community

We're committed to publishing free informational resources such as this how-to guide. Our resources have been shared by important industry organizations including:

Fast Facts

Below is an overview of the paperwork, cost, and time to start an Missouri nonprofit.

  • Form Corp-52: Articles of Incorporation of a Nonprofit Corporation
  • Bylaws
  • IRS Form SS-4: Apply for EIN
  • IRS Form 1023: Application for 501(c)(3) Exemption
  • IRS Determination Letter
  • Missouri Online Business Registration or Form 2643: Missouri Tax Registration Application
  • URS Charitable Registration, if applicable
  • Missouri Charitable Organization - Initial Registration Statement

  • Incorporation: $25
  • 501(c): $400 or $850 IRS fee
  • Missouri Charitable Registration: $15

  • Incorporation: ~1-7 business days
  • 501(c): 2 weeks to 3 months

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6 File Missouri Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation

File articles of incorporation to create your non-profit corporation.

Agency:Missouri Secretary of State - Corporations Division

Form Corp-52: Articles of Incorporation of a Nonprofit Corporation

Filing Method:

Mail or fax

State Fee:



~4-7 business days by mail or ~1-3 days by fax


Missouri Revised Statutes - Chapter 355: Nonprofit Corporation Law


You must submit original signatures.

Adding 501(c) provisions into your articles

The IRS requires specific language in the articles of incorporation to qualify for 501(c)(3) federal tax exemption. These provisions are not always included in state articles of incorporation templates. Refer to IRS Pub 557 for guidance and sample language.

7 Establish Organization Records

Your filed articles of incorporation are the first document for your nonprofit corporate records. Your corporation will generate many other official records such as bylaws, meeting minutes, and your EIN.

Office supplies intended for a nonprofit corporation will help you stay organized and save time. Optionally, get a nonprofit records kit.

Draft bylaws which is the governing document for the nonprofit. You will review and ratify the bylaws at your first board of directors meeting.

The Board should create and adopt a conflict of interest policy. This document is submitted to the IRS at the time they apply for 501(c)(3) tax exemption.

8 Hold Organizational Meeting of the Directors

Hold the first meeting of the board of directors. At this meeting, the nonprofit should approve the bylaws, elect additional directors, appoint officers, and approve initial resolutions such as opening a company bank account. Keep minutes of this meeting.

9 Get a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Your nonprofit must obtain an EIN regardless of whether it will hire employees.

Agency:Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

IRS Form SS-4


IRS Pub 1635: Understanding Your EIN

Filing Method:

Mail, phone, fax, or online

IRS Fee:



Immediately online or by phone. 4 business days by fax. 4-5 weeks by mail.


The IRS website is only available during certain hours. Print your EIN before closing your session.

10 Get Missouri State Tax Identification Numbers/Accounts

Register for state tax id(s) and accounts.

Submit to:
Missouri Department of Revenue
Missouri Online Business Registration system or Form 2643: Missouri Tax Registration Application
Filing Method:
Online or by mail
Get your EIN from the IRS before registering.
Harbor's responsiveness and realistic understanding gave our organization a great start.
JohnThe Alumni Society of San Sebastian
Harbor helped me understand what's needed and why, and they pointed out the details that I didn't bother to pay attention to! They took care of the whole thing.
11 Apply for 501(c)

Applying for 501(c) tax exemption is often the most complex and time-consuming steps in setting up a nonprofit. It is also one of the most important, as obtaining a tax exemption is what is enables an organization to successfully raise funds, apply for grants, be exempt from IRS income tax, and enjoy a variety of other benefits exclusively available to nonprofits.

501(c) is the chapter of the Internal Revenue Code that regulates nonprofit organizations. Most nonprofits are 501(c)(3)s, including charities and foundations. There are a few forms used to apply for federal tax exemption. 501(c)(3) nonprofits apply using Form 1023 or Form 1023-EZ. Not all organizations however are eligible to file the streamlined Form 1023-EZ. Other types of nonprofits, including 501(c)(4)s and 501(c)(6)s, apply using Form 1024.

Seeking the help of a professional with this step is common. Choosing the right form to file is just one consideration. A great deal of expertise, time, and preparation goes into creating a successful application. The IRS estimates over 100 hours are spent on researching and preparing the application. If you're looking for professional assistance, check out our formation services to help you with your 501(c) application and the rest of the process. Our nonprofit specialists will help you from start to finish.

Agency:Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

IRS Form 1023IRS Form 1023-EZ, or IRS Form 1024


IRS Instructions for Form 1023IRS Instructions for Form 1023-EZ, or IRS Instructions for Form 1024.  Also see guidance IRS Pub 557: Tax-Exempt Status for Your Organization.

Filing method:


IRS Fee:

$275, $400, or $850, depending on form and annual gross receipts


1023-EZ average: <1 month. 1023 average: 3-6 months.

The IRS will return a Determination Letter which officially recognized your exemption.

12 Apply for Missouri Tax Exemption(s)

Missouri nonprofits that file IRS Form 990 are exempt from Missouri corporation income tax.

More Information:
Missouri Department of Revenue

To obtain an exemption from paying Missouri sales tax on purchases:

Submit to:
Missouri Department of Revenue
Form 1746: Missouri Sales Tax Exemption Application
Filing Method:
13 Register for Charitable Solicitation / Fundraising

Before soliciting donations or hiring professionals solicitors, you must register in each state where you will raise funds.

To file in Missouri:

Agency:Missouri Attorney General - Charities

Most Missouri nonprofits are exempt and will need to file written application for exemption with the Missouri Attorney General. All 501(c)(3), 501(c)(7), and 501(c)(8) organizations are exempt. Written exemption should cite the exemption category and contain supporting documents (e.g. articles of incorporation and IRS determination letter).

Review the law for the full list of exemptions and criteria for exemption.


Initial Registration Statement

Filing method:


State Fee:

$15, payable to "Merchandising Practices Revolving Fund"


Missouri Revised Statutes, Title XXVI, §407.450 through 407.462

  • Even if your nonprofit is exempt, you may wish to have it added to the Attorney General's Check a Charity database. 
  • Note the list attachments required.
  • One authorized signature is required and must be notarized.


Online fundraising:

Missouri does not explicitly follow the Charleston Principles but has similar policies.

Accepts URS:Yes

To fundraise nationally or online, please see our Fundraising Compliance Guide. Our services manage your initial, renewal, and exemption filings in every state.

14 Obtain Business Licenses & Permits

To run your business legally, you must obtain applicable licenses and permits. The easiest way to navigate the wide range of federal, state, and local requirements is to search by your business type and locality using the Small Business Administration Business License & Permit look-up tool.

Nonprofits who wish to conduct bingo, raffles, and other charitable games must obtain a license.

Submit to:
Missouri Gaming Commission
Forms for Charitable Gaming
Filing Method:
Missouri Charitable Gaming Law
Use the application for the games desired.
* Ongoing Filings to Maintain Your Nonprofit

Once you have registered your nonprofit per the steps listed above, you will need to maintain compliance with all of the government agencies. Staying current with the IRS and state requirements is an ongoing responsibility. Continue reading our Missouri nonprofit compliance guide to learn more!

Tax-Exempt in 2 Weeks!

Download the case study of how our client, Reform It Now, obtained 501(c)(3) tax exemption in only two weeks using the new IRS Form 1023-EZ!

From filing the 1023EZ on August 1st to receipt of the determination letter on August 14th is, in my humble opinion, simply breathtaking and I dare say, ONLY Harbor Compliance could have achieved that.
Dr. Bob A.Reform It Now, Inc.

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This page was last fact-checked March 29, 2016.